Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), at National Harbor, Md., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

As part of its ongoing work to protect students’ civil rights and effectively, efficiently and fairly investigate civil rights complaints, the U.S. Department of Education has announced additional improvements to the Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) Case Processing Manual (CPM).

“Our top priority in the Office for Civil Rights is ensuring all students have equal access to education free from discrimination,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth L. Marcus. “Since joining the OCR team in June, I’ve reviewed our Case Processing Manual and received important and constructive feedback on it.  While we continue to work to improve the timeliness of OCR’s case processing, we have determined that additional revisions will help improve our work and allow us to be more responsive to students, stakeholders and our staff.”

The CPM provides guidelines for field investigators working to investigate and resolve complaints and to ensure schools comply with the laws and regulations enforced by OCR. The CPM underwent its last revision in March of 2018.

Key revisions to the CPM include the following:

  • Requires OCR to comport with the First Amendment when investigating and resolving complaints.
  • Restores appeals for complainants, who can appeal findings of insufficient evidence, as well as certain types of dismissals, and provides recipients with the opportunity to respond to appeals.
  • Eliminates section 108(t) from the earlier CPM, which had provided that OCR would dismiss a complaint that is part of a pattern of complaints that places an unreasonable burden on OCR’s resources.

As an important complement to the CPM revisions, OCR is implementing post-case closure Quality Assurance Reviews to assure consistency and quality in case processing among the 12 regional OCR offices. OCR will also use the reviews to identify areas where further training is necessary, and to identify and share best practices among the regional offices.

The CPM retains several important changes from its March 2018 revision:

  • Investigation and resolution activities focus on the individual allegation(s) stated by the complainant.  OCR will also undertake systemic investigations only where it is appropriate to do so in light of the allegations or based on facts ascertained in the investigation.
  • Increased opportunities for the resolution of complaints through the Rapid Resolution Process (RRP) and the Facilitated Resolution Between the Parties (FRBP) process. These processes permit the parties to resolve a complaint themselves with OCR’s facilitation.
  • Expanded timeframes for the negotiation of resolution agreements with recipients.

To view the Office for Civil Rights Case Processing Manual in its entirety, please visit OCR’s website.

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